August 2021 Newsletter

Vineyard with Konocti in background

A Note from Commission President

As harvest gets underway, we would like to take a moment to thank all of the vendors and suppliers who provide support throughout the year – from farm labor contractors to weather forecasters, from pest control advisors to pump drillers, from harvester operators to haulers – especially all of our Affiliate Sponsors. We value your expertise and dedication to our industry. Thank you!

At a recent meeting, the Lake County Winegrape Commission Board of Directors thanked Keith Brandt of Bella Vista Farming Company for his six years of service on the Board and on several committees, including the Commission’s Finance Committee. We wish Keith the best with his move to the beautiful state of Montana.

We are pleased to welcome Michael Ryan of Perry Ranch Vineyard, newly appointed LCWC Board Member. Read on to learn a bit about Michael.

Wishing you a successful harvest season!


Debra Sommerfield, President
Lake County Winegrape Commission

In this Issue…

Emergency Preparedness: Ag Access Program
Drought Survey
California Wine Month: Lake County’s Volcanic Social Media Campaign
LCWC Board Holds Strategy Session
Grape & Wine Marketplace
Grower Spotlight: Peter Molnar
Lake County Wines in the News
LCWC Seats New Board Member, Michael Ryan
LCWC Recognizes Keith Brandt for Dedicated Service
Weather & Climate Report
Affiliate Sponsor: Vineyard Industry Products

Emergency Preparedness: Ag Access Program

The Lake County Restricted Access Program has been established to assist commercial agricultural producers in completing critical work during emergencies to reduce significant production loss to commercial agriculture.

Recognizing that critical work is necessary to continue commercial agricultural operations during times of restricted access, the Lake County Department of Agriculture, Lake County Community Development Department, Lake County Office of Emergency Services, and Lake County Sheriff’s Office worked in partnership to develop the program.

The program consists of two steps: Step 1) the process to verify the commercial agricultural business operation, and Step 2) the verification of the critical need and issuance of a permit for temporary restricted access.

Growers are encouraged to obtain commercial agricultural verification (Step 1) well in advance of any emergencies. In most cases, this will expedite permit issuance (Step 2) during a restricted access order.

For program details and required forms, visit the Lake County Department of Agriculture website.

Input Needed: Ag Department Drought Survey

The Lake County Department of Agriculture has put together a survey to identify the impacts that the current drought is having on agriculture in the county. Growers are encouraged to take a few minutes to complete the survey.

California Wine Month: Explore Lake County’s Volcanic Wines

California Wine Month Banner

The Lake County Winegrape Commission is hosting a virtual exploration of Lake County’s volcanic wines on social media in conjunction with California Wine Month. Viewers will explore the attributes that make up the unique geography and soils of the region throughout the month of September by following LCWC on these platforms:

Facebook: @LakeCountyWine
Instagram: @lakecountywinegrapecommission
YouTube: Lake County Winegrape Commission

In addition to learning about the many characteristics of Lake County’s volcanic wines, participants are also invited to enter a giveaway with a chance to win a copy of Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power by John Szabo, Master Sommelier. Learn more.

LCWC Board Holds Strategy Session

Strategic Planning MeetingThe Lake County Winegrape Commission engaged in a strategic session facilitated by well-known brand expert David Flanagan, founder of Misfit Agency. Current and former Board Members and LCWC staff participated in the engaging discussion, which explored brand positioning, regional messaging, and opportunities for differentiation. The goal of the effort is to leverage current market conditions, buyer needs, and consumer preferences to effectively communicate the strengths and distinctness of the region to support demand for the region’s grapes and wine.

LCWC Grape Marketplace

Grape & Wine Marketplace

For an up-to-date list of Lake County grapes and bulk wine for sale, visit the Marketplace page of the LCWC website.

Grapes for Sale

90-100 tons 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills, Mount Olive Ranch. Contact Jaime Rosas: 707-262-2899

20-30 tons 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Kelsey Bench, Dobish Vineyard, Certified California Sustainable. Contact Deb Dobish: 707-480-7044 or

20 tons 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills, Perry Ranch Vineyard, Certified California Sustainable. Contact Mike Ryan: 707-900-1586 or

80 tons 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Kelsey Bench, Desafinado Vineyards (formerly Sweetwater Vineyards). Contact Deborah Cullen: 707-239-9135 or

180-200 tons 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills, Robertsbridge Vineyards. Contact Craig Shannon: 707-349-7892 or

50 tons 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ceago Del Lago Vineyard. Contact Bernard Fetzer: 707-272-2958

20 tons 2021 Chardonnay, Big Valley, Pollywog Vineyard, farmed sustainably by Chevalier Vineyard Management. Contact Gayle Christopher: 626-722-7888 or

200 tons 2021 Chardonnay, Big Valley, Certified California Sustainable. Contact Tim Roos: 209-499-6722 or

20-30 tons 2021 Merlot, Kelsey Bench, Dobish Vineyard, Certified California Sustainable. Contact Deb Dobish: 707-480-7044 or

Bulk Wine for Sale

4,000 gallons 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills, Perry Ranch Vineyard, Certified Sustainable. Contact Mike Ryan: 707-900-1586 or

Looking to Purchase

4-6 half ton macro bins, Contact Sean Mooney, Organic Vegetable Grower: 510-258-8497 or

Grower Spotlight: Peter Molnar, Co-Founder, Obsidian Wine Co.

Excavating a Dream

Peter Molnar and dogWhen volcanoes last erupted in Lake County, people had just migrated to this region. That was 11,000 years ago. Still, in geological time, that’s recent. The area around Mount Konocti bears evidence of this volcanic activity, including its famous red soil and ubiquitous obsidian rock.

Today, those rocks gleam in the sun, their shiny silica surfaces reflecting their origin – and lend their name to the business Peter Molnar helped build alongside partner Michael Terrien, brother Arpad, and their family: Obsidian Ridge Vineyards.

His own origins reach southward to Napa Valley, where, in the early 1970s, his parents planted one of the first vineyards in southern Carneros. But the roots of Peter’s Lake County story are firmly planted in the Red Hills AVA. It was a cold February day in 1995 when he arrived there in the dead of winter, but a sense of excitement was kindled at the prospect of growing grapes in a place still evolving.

“There was snow on the mountains,” Peter remembers, “My father and I came up to take a look at a walnut orchard called Amber Knolls. A partner of ours from Napa had an interest in it and wanted to develop it together. The first thing that struck me was how obviously different Lake County was, how much colder it was in February, and how unique the soils were in the Red Hills.”

The Discovery of a Lifetime

While the family passed on that project, the hook was set. Taken by “this really incredibly intact, new volcanic soil,” Peter called Paul Skinner, the venerated viticulturalist who helped develop many of the early southern Mayacamas vineyards in the Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain districts.

“I said, ‘Paul, why couldn’t we grow great winegrapes up here?’” Peter recalls, “He came, looked around. He said, ‘You absolutely could.’ And that cemented for us the vision that if we were going to come up here, we wanted it to be the next evolution of really great mountain fruit in the North Coast.”

“The excitement of finding a site in these super young volcanic soils, with this rock, this crazy obsidian on a north-facing ridgeline 2,000 to almost 3,000 feet of elevation – in retrospect, it seems like the most logical thing you could ever do,” Peter says. “But at the time, it reminded me of the saying, ‘Even the blind pig gets the truffle every once in a while.’ It was serendipitous to find it.”

Beyond the rich allure of the place, crossed by the Mayacamas Mountains and marked by its sweeping vistas with the volcano’s presence, farming the Red Hills was formidable, particularly at a time when the idea of it, regardless of Lake’s history in winemaking, seemed new. The soil is stubbornly rocky, requiring massive excavation, and the climate is widely varied. But the payoffs are immense.

Touting itself as “half a mile in the sky at the farthest reaches of the Mayacamas Mountain Range,” Obsidian Ridge has forged a reputation that ascends as high. The vineyard’s 2016 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon was number 42 on the “Wine Enthusiast” Cellar Selection Top 100 list in 2019 and made the Top 50 Wines in 2020 for Wine & Spirits’ highly regarded Restaurant Poll. Wine critic Esther Mobley describes the Obsidian Ridge Cabernet as “a rich, structured, deeply delicious wine [that] strongly contends for California’s best-value Cab.”

The Future Gleams Like Obsidian Rocks

Twenty-five years after arriving in Lake County, Molnar is more bullish on the place than ever.

“I’ve had the chance to bring some very, very experienced winemakers to Obsidian Ridge from all over, Australia, Bordeaux, Mendoza, and other places,” he says. “I can tell you, almost unequivocally, nine out of 10 times, it’s just this surprise, like, ‘Wait a minute, this is a whole different thing than I imagined.’ The power of this place, the soils, the obsidian, the elevation – that’s why we’re still in Lake County. That’s why we’re going to stay in Lake County.”

For those who follow, Peter contends, the future gleams like those obsidian rocks in the California sun. “The thrill for me is to not build on hundreds of years of tradition, but for us to be able to create this new tradition and bring the most out of this land, understand our sites deeply, and really put world-class wines on the table.”

Photo credit: Nathan DeHart

Lake County Wine in the News Banner, microphone and six glasses of white wine set up for technical tasting

Lake County Wines in the News

Congratulations also to these Lake County wines, which Wine Enthusiast recently reviewed:

  • Cinnabar 2017 Malbec, 93 Points
  • Dancing Crow Vineyards 2020 Rosé of Syrah, 90 Points
  • Hawk and Horse Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Franc (Red Hills), 93 Points
  • Hawk and Horse Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Hills), 92 Points
  • Hawk and Horse Vineyards 2017 Petite Sirah (Red Hills), 94 Points
  • Hawk and Horse Vineyards 2017 Petit Verdot (Red Hills), 94 Points, Cellar Selection
  • Hawk and Horse Vineyards 2017 Block Three Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Hills), 93 Points, Cellar Selection
  • Peter Franus 2018 Mourvèdre (Red Hills), 93 Points
  • Peter Franus 2018 Zinfandel (Red Hills), 93 Points, Cellar Selection
  • Prima Materia 2018 Barbera, 92 Points, Editors’ Choice
  • Prima Materia 2019 Negroamaro (Kelsey Bench), 93 Points, Editors’ Choice
  • Prima Materia NV Grenache, 91 Points
  • Prima Materia NV Zinfandel, 90 Points
  • Shannon Ridge 2017 Two Bud Block Reserve Zinfandel, 93 Points
  • Shannon Ridge 2019 High Elevation Collection Chardonnay, 90 Points
  • Sol Rouge 2017 Gypsy Rouge Red, 94 Points, Editors’ Choice
  • Sol Rouge 2017 Syrah (Red Hills), 94 Points
  • Sol Rouge 2018 Gypsy Blanc White, 91 Points
  • Sottomarino 2016 Sangiovese, 92 Points
  • Sottomarino 2016 Sopraffino Red, 92 Points
  • Sottomarino NV Rosé, 91 Points
  • Vie Winery 2017 L’Intruse G-S-M, 90 Points
  • Wild Diamond 2017 Dumb Luck Syrah, 93 Points, Editors’ Choice
  • Wild Diamond 2017 Single Vineyard Red, 90 Points
  • Wild Diamond 2018 Dumb Luck Syrah, 94 Points, Editors’ Choice

New Board Member: Michael O. Ryan

Michael RyanAt its July meeting, the Lake County Winegrape Commission (LCWC) Board of Directors voted to appoint Dr. Michael O. Ryan of Perry Ranch Vineyard to fill a board vacancy. Michael has been growing grapes since 2014 and recently became California Certified Sustainable. He is currently transitioning to organic practices that he hopes will allow for certification with CCOF. Michael is appreciative of the support and advice he’s obtained from LCWC over the years and looks forward to giving back to the winegrape community by serving on the board.

Prior to grape growing, Michael was an employee of the MITRE Corporation, which operated numerous federally funded research and development centers, and he retired as Executive Director of the MITRE Space Programs. He served in the United States Air Force for 26 years and retired at the rank of Colonel.

Winegrape Commission Recognizes Keith Brandt for Dedicated Service

Keith Brandt The Lake County Winegrape Commission Board of Directors and staff recognize the valuable contribution of Keith Brandt throughout his six years of service on the Board.

At its June meeting, the Board presented Keith with a plaque and thanked him for his steadfast commitment to the Commission’s work.

Weather Banner

Weather & Climate

“July continued the overall warm conditions experienced this summer with the bulk of the western US above average. High pressure dominated the month with heat dome events elevating daytime temperatures and enhanced monsoon flow elevating humidity levels and nighttime temperatures…”

View July Report from Dr. Gregory Jones.

Affiliate Sponsor

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